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Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

President of Liberia

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is Liberia’s first elected female president, as well as the first elected female leader on the continent.

On 23 November 2005, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was declared the winner of the Liberian election and confirmed as the country’s next president.

Previously, Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf served as Minister of Finance from 1972 to 1973, but left after a disagreement over public spending.

On April 12, 1980, Master Sergeant Samuel Kayon Doe, a member of the indigenous Krahn ethnic group, seized power in a military coup and President William Tolbert was executed along with several members of his cabinet by firing squad. With the People’s Redemption Council now in power, Samuel Doe began a purge of government.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf narrowly escaped — choosing exile in Kenya. From 1983 to 1985 she served as Director of Citibank in Nairobi, but when Samuel Doe declared himself president of the Republic in 1984 and legitimized multiple political parties, she decided to return. During the 1985 elections Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf campaigned against Doe, and was placed under house arrest.

Sentenced to ten years in prison, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf spent just a short time incarcerated, before being allowed to leave the country once again as an exile.

During the 1980s she served as Vice President of both the African Regional Office of Citibank, in Nairobi, and of (HSCB) Equator Bank, in Washington.

From 1992 to 1997 Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf worked as Assistant Administrator, and then Director, of the UN Development Program Regional Bureau for Africa

She holds a Masters degree in Public Administration from Harvard University, is a divorced mother of four boys and grandmother to six children.

Articles by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf